George Birt was born about 1817, the son of Joseph and Mary Birt. George was baptised in Thornbury St Marys Church on 16th February 1817. Click here to read about Joseph and Mary
George became a labourer. On 19th April 1840 he married a widow, Harriett Gough, the daughter of Robert Howell, a labourer. On 3rd December 1829 Harriett had married James Gough and they had one son, James Gough baptised on 13th June 1833. Harriett’s husband died aged 31 and was buried on 1st February 1838.
The 1841 census shows George and Hannah had taken over the house in St Mary Street previously occupied by his parents. He was paying £2 per year in rent. George was an agricultural labourer aged 20 and his wife, Harriett was aged 30 and they were living with George aged 8 months and James Gough aged 8.
George and Harriett had four children of their own. There was a notice in the Bristol Mercury dated 1846 which might suggest that George and Harriett had some marital problems. The notice shows that a reward of two pounds was being offered by the Thornbury Union for the apprehension of George Birt, labourer who had absconded leaving his family chargeable to the parish of Thornbury. It added that he was ‘aged about 34 years, a native of Thornbury, rather short and stout made, fresh coloured, has been working lately as the lime-kilns in the parish of Yate’. George was caught. We don’t know if a reward had to be paid, but the Overseers of the Poor had to pay police sergeant Riddiford had to be paid £1 15 shillings for his efforts to apprehend George.
The 1851 census shows George and Harriett were still together. He was shown as an agricultural labourer aged 34, Harriett was aged 42 and their children: George aged 10, Thomas aged 8, Susan aged 6, and Edwin aged 4. James Gough, Harriett’s son by her first marriage was also living there working as a blacksmith’s labourer aged 17.
In 1854 George and Harriett had another daughter, Mary Ann who baptised on 3rd September 1854 but she died after only 4 months and was buried on 15th December 1854. By 1861 George had become a coachman and he and Harriett were now living in the house on their own. They were still there in the 1871 census, although George had reverted to being a labourer. He died in September quarter 1871 aged 53. George had carried on paying £2 per year, the same rent that they had been paying in the 1840’s. Following his death, Harriett carried on living in the house, but the rent had doubled to £4 per year. We have a copy of the rental agreement showing that Harriett is renting the cottage and garden from the Corporation of Thornbury for four pounds a year payable to the Mayor. The Mayors Accounts Book indicates that Harriett left the house about 1886, a few years before she died in 1889 aged 80.
Of George and Harriett’s children:
- Edwin – was born on 29th December 1846. A family member thinks the photo on the right is Edwin. In 1861 Edwin was a servant at the Thornbury Vicarage. We understand he worked as a Gentleman’s gentleman (i.e. a valet). By 1870 he had gone to London where he married Phillippa Pritchard from Winterbourne. In the 1881 census they were living in 7 Argyle Place, Westminster with their children: Harry aged 9 and Susan aged 2. The family believe that Edwin then left his family and went off to Canada. He must have returned however as he is shown in the 1901 census as living with his brother, George, at 16 Ashby Road in Islington and he was working then as a porter.
- George – was born in 1840. A family member thinks the photo on the left is George. The 1861 census shows that George was lodging in Hanover Street, Bristol, together with Thomas, his younger brother who was 18. George was a porter. By 1878 George had gone to London where he married Catherine Margaret Murray from Newcastle on Tyne.
In 1881 they living in Holborn with their daughters: Florence & Edith 5 months. By the 1891 census George had become a bookseller. He was living at 68 Theobald Road, Holborn living with Kate and their children: Florence aged 11 Edith aged 8 and Annie H aged 6. In the 1901 census George was living at 16 Ashby Road, Islington with Kate and their children: Florence aged 21, Edith aged 19,and Annie a sewing machinist aged 16 and George’s brother, Edwin, a hotel porter aged 54.
- Susan – was born in 1844. A family member thinks the photo on the right is Susan. She never married and started her working life in domestic service. In 1871 she was in 37 Mecklenburg Square, St Pancras working as a domestic servant for a German who was a merchant in dry goods. The 1881 census shows she returned to Thornbury and she was a domestic servant working for the William J Salmon in Silver Street. The 1890 rate book shows Susan still living in Silver Street, but by the 1891 census she was a general shopkeeper at 2 High Street, just up from the Bank on The Plain. By 1894 she had moved to 33 High Street. In 1901 she was a newsagent and shopkeeper there. She had moved away by the 1905 rate book. She died aged 61 in Hackney in 1906.
- Thomas – Thomas was born in 1842. In the 1861 census Thomas and his brother, George, were lodging in Bristol. Thomas was working with books – (we can’t read the writing on the census as to his proper role). The 1881 and 1891 census shows Thomas living in London at 9 Little Turnstile, St Giles in the Fields. He was working here as a bookseller and stationer. He was married to Sarah aged 47 from Devon and they had lots of children mostly born in St Giles except one who was born in Reading.